King Harold died – here, not there
English Heritage have resited the spot at the Battle of Hastings that King Harold was killed, and around which William the Conqueror built a Benedictine abbey.
Caption: a visitor examines the stone marking Hi[=Kikng Harold;s last stand - moved from 20 feet behind her
The precise place had been a mystery with Victorians believing the last Saxon king of England fell on the site of the nearby monastery building. In the 1930s the archaeologist Sir Harold Brakspear had identified the original foundations of the abbey William built, but found no traces of the altar that was placed on the Conqueror’s orders on the precise spot where Harold was cut down. In the 1990s English Heritage scholars estimated that the altar’s location was in the middle of the abbey’s nave.
Now, however, they have changed their opinion, putting it 20 feet to the east.
“It wasn’t so much archaeology – we haven’t been able to do a new excavation – as detective work and common sense that led to us moving it” said Dr Michael Carter, senior properties historian for English Heritage. “It was the style in Romanesque churches of this time for altars to be at the east end of the nave, not at its centre. And we know from 12th century accounts that the altar was placed on the site of Harold’s standard where ‘the body of Harold, slain for love of his country, was found’.”
As well as resting the stone marking King Harold’s last stand, English Heritage have repaired the stairs in the 13th century Great Gatehouse, opening the roof to the public for the first time, with a new exhibition giving a blow-by-blow account of the battle that raged on Senlac Ridge 950 years ago in October. The monks’ 13th century dormitory next to the original abbey site has also been restored and opened to the public for the first tine in the £1.8m restoration.